The Youngest Child Syndrome

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The other day I sent my 4 year old to time out for hitting his older brother while they were playing a board game.  As he was crying in the corner, I realized that I needed to talk to him about what happened.  Instead of just giving him a lecture on why he shouldn’t hit his brother, which I also did, I realized that he needed me to acknowledge something. He needed me to notice that it’s not easy being the little brother.

The little brother never gets to pick the show to watch on tv. Even if he does, the big brother will talk him out of watching that one. The little brother is always the last one to the car when you’re going somewhere and someone  yells out, “Last one to the car’s a rotten egg!” He’s also the last one to finish his dinner and get dessert and the last one to get his car seatbelt buckled. (It seems like we’re always waiting on him.)

The Benefits Of Being The Little Brother

It’s not always the worst thing in the world to have an older brother. It means you have someone to look up to.  Someone to teach you how to do things earlier than most kids your age get to do them. And you get to play with toys that usually only older kids can play with. Plus, there will always be someone there who will look out for you on the playground.

But we often forget how hard it can be to be the little brother. The one who never wins the game. My 4 year old is a pretty smart kid and he’s learning things really fast. He picks up on way more than we give him credit for. But he’s just not old enough to know that the strategy to playing the board game Sorry is to get all of your pawns close to home as fast as possible. He often gets frustrated and sabotages the game by knocking everyone else’s pieces off the board.

I’m Paying Attention

So this time when my boys got into an argument, I tried something different. Instead of just telling my youngest why it’s not ok to hit his brother when he gets mad, I also said, “It’s hard to be the little brother sometimes isn’t it? It’s hard to be the one who doesn’t win.” His little blue eyes looked up at me like his voice had finally been heard.

We had a moment of connection that made me remember why I loved working with kids. I felt that spark that you feel when you really understand what a child is going through and you know that they notice it too.

It’s like a lightbulb goes off somewhere in your brain and you feel warm and fuzzy all over. Now as a mom my heart skips a beat when it happens with my own kids.

Of course his brother was eavesdropping at this point and reminded me that he doesn’t always lose, but I could tell that Charlie needed that moment. He needed to be heard. He need to be validated. I needed it to for him to.

They really do love each other.

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